Yeah, but what was he doing in the broadcast box in the first place?

I was only mildly surprised to hear that Dean Jones had shot himself in the foot and shot his commentating career to Hell by making an outrageous remark about Hashim Amla.

Cricket watchers know Deano is not above making stupid remarks. His commentating career has demonstrated that he is an inexhaustable fund of imbecilic remarks. He covered Australia’s 2004 tour of India and drove me to distraction with his inanities. He mostly talks in cliches. In fact, he can talk in cliches till the cows come home.

In truth, he’s always been a self-centred and rather thoughtless individual who has a poor record of putting his mouth into action before engaging his brain. As a player, he alienated his team-mates with Australia, Victoria and even with Derbyshire. His file as a player, for all his brilliance as a batsman, was undoubtedly scarred with his ‘poor team player’ reputation.

I only needed one day of hearing Dean Jones as a commentator to understand that he was patently unsuitable for the position. He is constantly inflicted on Asian audiences, I guess because of his supposed credibility gained by playing 52 Tests for Australia. However, in those 52 Test matches, he learned nothing about what is required to be a broadcaster.

Quite rightly a lot of the focus of this controversy will fall onto Jones, for his disgraceful remarks. However, his employer, Ten Sports, also deserve a full measure of disapproval, for hiring someone who had a demonstrated inability to perform the fairly important job of cricket commentator with an appropriate degree of professionalism.

No doubt it is helpful to have played the game at at least first class level. However, playing ability is not broadcasting ability. The doyenne of television broadcasters, Richie Benaud, made a point of staying in England after Australia’s 1956 tour of England, to undertake a sports broadcasting course conducted by the BBC. He was also a trained newspaper journalist, in an era when Australian cricketers had to have a separate career. No million dollar salaries back then. So Benaud, who became the model of the player broadcaster, came to the microphone with a thorough and thoughtful understanding of the television industry. Few of his successors as player-broadcasters have had such a background, and it shows.

The appropriate model is perhaps the old fashioned radio model, where a professional journalist does the ball-by-ball comments, and the old player provides the expert commentary. On radio, the old pro has time to gather his thoughts, and thus (hopefully) sparing himself the embarrassment that Jones has put himself though. In one way, I suppose it is sad that Jones has self destructed in this way. But I ask you, what was he doing in that broadcast box in the first place?

Fans deprived of cricket by new ruling

Cricket-Online: Fans deprived of cricket by new ruling

[via Cricket-Online]

“Essentially the ruling is that a days play ends at a dictated time, not when the overs have been bowled. Any overs that have not been bowled or lost to bad light will not be made up at either end of the day.”

I must admit this is news to me. I’ve been vaguely aware that play has been ending earlier than usual (especially in Britain due to Channel 4, the broadcaster, who are worried about their schedules) but I hadn’t realised it had started to affect so many matches. Can anyone else confirm they’ve seen it become a problem?

Channel 4, Sky and Channel 5

Channel 4 were the first to use Hawk-eye

As was widely reported here in the UK yesterday, Channel 4 have lost the rights to show live cricket in Britain. (not that interesting for non-UK readers…sorry) This has quite massive potential implications on cricket in England and Wales. I don’t know what to think – any comments, feel free to post them. I’d be particularly interested to hear what other countries’ TV rights are (India & Australia in particular – I also remember reading recently that NZ rarely get cricket coverage on TV…true or false?)

Channel 4 bought the rights from the BBC, who lost interest (and couldn’t pay enough) – back then (1998?), opinion was divided as to whether Channel 4 could match the quality of the BBC’s coverage. Channel 4, like the BBC, are “free to air” on terrestrial TV – but unlike the BBC, are a commercial TV station and there was concern that adverts would impede the viewer’s enjoyment of watching live cricket.

All in all, Channel 4 provided excellent coverage with reasonably good commentators (Mark Nicholas, Richie Benaud, Mike Atherton, Boycott, Simon Hughes, Ian Smith, Slater and more) and summarisers. They implemented a number of technological enhancements which have now been used or bought by other stations around the world. They were the first to use Hawk-eye, for example – although none of this technology used was necessarily produced by Channel 4, they had the foresight to use technology to improve the customer’s viewing pleasure.

Most of all – viewers didn’t need to pay extra to watch the cricket. Sky, as most people know, charge exorbitant fees for their services which will dramatically reduce the numbers of armchair cricket fans. Isn’t that how a whole generation were introduced to cricket? By seeing it on TV? I know I was. (Paul Reiffel bowling to England in 1993). Some people are claiming the enourmous fee the ECB have received from Sky (£200m+) will be injected into grass-roots, and will be of massive benefit for the future of English cricket. But, wasn’t it Nasser Hussain who once said that Cricket is entertainment? That the most important people in the game are the spectators and fans?

I’m not anti-Sky – I find their fees very expensive, but they offer undeniable benefits. Digital-quality Television which is unsurpassed in quality (pictorial quality!); they have the majority of radio stations available in digital for no extra cost; regardless of whether you’re a TV-addict or not, there is generally something available to watch that most people would find interesting. I only bought Sky a few years ago and purely to watch the winter tours and rugby, but I must admit to having enjoyed the films and other channels available to me.

It is, as Marcus Trescothick said today, inevitable that Sky would win eventually. The true ramifications won’t be known for a while. Long live TMS, I guess.

Channel 4 lose TV rights in Britain

Not good. More on the ramifications of this a little later…